Creative Labs' new Video Blaster MovieMaker is a stylish-looking, low-priced competitor to Dazzle's Digital Video Creator. With an estimated street price of $199.99, MovieMaker costs $50 less than the DVC, but it has fewer output options. On the other hand, it offers MPEG-2 video capture, while the DVC does not. If you'd like to produce higher-quality video, the Video Blaster MovieMaker is the better choice. Creative Labs' new Video Blaster MovieMaker is a stylish-looking, low-priced competitor to Dazzle's Digital Video Creator. With an estimated street price of $199.99, MovieMaker costs $50 less than the DVC, but it has fewer output options. On the other hand, it offers MPEG-2 video capture, while the DVC does not. If you'd like to produce higher-quality video, the Video Blaster MovieMaker is the better choice.
Simple and Stylish
As long as you install the drivers first, installing the MovieMaker is as easy as it gets; just connect the device to an available USB port using the included cable. A quick-start guide explains what the ports are and what they do. The device is compatible with Windows 98, Me, and 2000; however, Mac users are out of luck. Figure on 100MB of disk space to install the bundled software.
The gray and shadow-blue Video Blaster looks sleek and elegant, even with a swarm of cables attached to it. MovieMaker has audio, video, and S-Video inputs, but it comes with only a single composite video and audio cable. Unlike the Dazzle Digital Video Creator, MovieMaker can't output to VHS videotape, just digital media.
The MovieMaker's minimum system requirements call for a 350-MHz or faster CPU with 32MB of RAM. But don't underestimate the amount of processing power needed to digitize the video or the RAM required to edit it. Based on our experience, we'd strongly recommend the fastest processor possible and 64MB or more of RAM, unless you intend to edit extremely short and simple videos. And a final but important note: Make sure you have plenty of disk space to store your videos as you capture and edit them; Creative Labs recommends at least 2GB. But with MPEG-1 files taking up approximately 16MB per minute at 2 mbps and MPEG-2 files taking approximately 31MB to 46MB per minute at 1 mbps to 6 mbps, you'll probably want more.
Software Does the Job
The Video Blaster MovieMaker's bundled software covers all the bases for capturing, editing, and outputting video. MovieMaker converts VHS videos from a VCR or camcorder to your hard drive. (Don't confuse this Creative Labs-branded software with Microsoft's Windows Movie Maker; they are not the same product.) When you start the analog-to-digital conversion with MovieMaker, there's a pause, then your hard drive spins up to accept the mountain of data. Soon, your video appears in MovieMaker's preview window as freshly converted digital data; it takes about as long to convert the video as it does to play it. Creative Labs provides a short manual on the MovieMaker hardware and software in PDF format on CD, which includes a thorough troubleshooting section and information on how to contact technical support.
Ulead VideoStudio 4.0 SE is a full-featured, easy-to-use package for editing audio and video. Its timelinelike interface uses an eight-step process to capture and storyboard your video and add effects such as fades and captions. It also produces the finished product, at which point you can burn the movie onto disc, email it, or post it as Real, ASF, or QuickTime streaming video. A tutorial and manual are included on Ulead's CD.
The Video Blaster Moviemaker's biggest advantage is its ability to create MPEG-2 video. This standard offers noticeably better video quality than MPEG-1, but the files are much bigger--a problem if you're short on disk space or plan to stream video. Still, it's a handy option to have, especially on such a low-priced product.
Creative Labs backs the MovieMaker with a one-year warranty on hardware and a 60-day warranty on software. Technical support is free (but the call is not toll-free), and it's available Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 8 p.m. CT.
The Video Blaster MovieMaker doesn't offer as many output options as the Dazzle Digital Video Creator. But if you don't need VHS output, the MovieMaker is cheaper and, with its MPEG-2 capability, a better choice for those who want to create sharper-looking videos.